5 Women-led Climate Tech Start-ups Ready to Disrupt

Erica Eller
5 min readDec 8, 2021

So you say you want a paradigm shift. Women-led start-ups are ready to blow the status quo out of the water. I was super impressed by some of the presentations I watched at this year’s NOAH Zurich conference, especially those given by women.

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The promise of representing, valuing, and giving equal access to the value of living nature emerged as a common theme at NOAH. Young women founders communicated this pathway more convincingly than I’ve ever heard before. I’m convinced the next Elon Musk will be female, and she’ll probably be younger than 35 years old.

But climate tech has a massive funding gap. According to Blackrock’s CEO Larry Fink, “Investments in low carbon projects in emerging markets will need to be more than a trillion dollars a year — more than six times the current rate of investments of about $150 billion a year.”

When it comes to funding women-led start-ups, the gap is even starker. Total funding this year tripled to 120bn Euros in Europe. Yet only 2.4% of funding went to female-led startups in 2020, and even less in 2021 at 1.1% ( Dealroom data shared by Ludomila Jordanova on LinkedIn).

Even though Larry Fink is focusing on finding the next climate tech unicorn, women-led investors in the space are updating the language of impact. Extantia’s Laura-Marie Töpfer uses the term “gigacorn” to describe her desired investment profile. A gigacorn is a company that saves 1GT (1 million tonnes of CO2e), or the equivalent of 2% of the world’s annual carbon emissions.

Placing value on the speed and effectiveness with which company’s can drive CO2e reductions to align with the 1.5 degree Celsius goal is needed to stay within safe planetary boundaries. Yet, it’s no coincidence that delays to gender parity and climate action run parallel, and that needs to change.

“The future of VC lies in, well, literally the future — the most successful venture investors are aggressive visionaries who can clairvoyantly imagine the future for mankind, and bet on it early. The future of venture capital — and mankind — is, in my opinion, female.”

says Xiao Jean Chen, founder of Switzerland-based Venture pole.

Here are the insights I gained from 5 of today’s most inspiring start-ups led by women.


So far, agroforestry assets have been used by investors to hedge for inflation risks, because they’re a real asset that replenishes itself over time, when managed well. With a 7% price adjusted value increase since 2011, said Theresa Hauck of Econos, forests have outperformed Gold and they are competitive with the DAX (a German blue chip stock market index).

But investment in forests requires a minimum landholding of roughly 1,500 hectares to see a return, it’s illiquid, and only available to institutional investors. The bureaucratic methods to find, by and manage the asset are cumbersome.

This leads to several problems: smallholders can’t earn returns off of their living nature assets. The full value of forests is not reflected in the markets. And lastly, forests lack liquidity, so retail investors cannot vote with their cash for the planet or earn returns.

Econos follows these core principles to solve these problems:

  • Access — provide the same quality and return profiles for illiquid assets.
  • Low cost — financial accessibility for all ticket sizes.
  • 100% digital — offer 100% online access.
  • Liquidity — create a foundation for future trade-ability on external digital secondary markets.


Likewise, single.earth is trying to solve similar problems using blockchain technology. Merit Valdsalu, Estonia-based entrepreneur and co-founder of single.earth, uses her platform to capture the diverse forms of value contained in living nature: biodiversity, ecosystem services, and carbon storage and sequestration to integrate nature protection into the economy.

The platform does so by creating a digital twin of planet earth and then tokenizing the value to aid the fair access to this market for people around the world. She wants to “make sure that the landowners and participants have fair access and fair value regardless of their development status.”

As Valdsalu points out, some “carbon offset projects are good for the climate but can have negative impact on biodiversity.” For example, agroforestry firms have begun promoting the CO2e reduction potential of fast-growing non-native tree species for planting in diverse regions around the world. This, however, leads to additional ecosystem risks which can harm local biodiversity.

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Traditionally, biodiversity measurement has been incredibly complex and it relied on manual techniques like camera traps and soil sampling. However, Kat Bruce of NatureMetrics is championing a new solution that uses DNA sequencing to identify the total level of biodiversity, including exact species identification, using the traces of DNA living being leave in water. This can help companies better interpret biodiversity levels in a comparable, standardized way that aids valuation.

The space of biodiversity finance is rapidly evolving and Bruce expects the following industries to use NatureMetrics to track and monitor biodiversity using her metrics: Infrastructure, energy, extractives, marine fishing, conservation, and water.


Blockchain can be used to give value to other forms of impact, too, besides living nature. Brianna Lee Welsh, managing director of Reneum considers the problems with the current economic system are held up by “structural friction” related to wealth inequality, lack of credit financing access, and an overabundance of fossil fuel financing, even though consumers demand a shift to clean energy. To address this, Reneum’s blockchain based unit of value, GREN, tokenizes renewable energy.

Plan A

While retail investors may consider the single measure of renewable energy important, ESG investors consider a wide range of factors. So far, this has created a complex problem of standardization for companies, banks, and investors alike. The bureaucratic and administrative hurdle associated with ESG reporting has led to a lack of action, and in the worst cases, outright greenwashing.

Plan A aims to minimize this structural friction for different asset types (with varied materiality), customer types (SMEs to enterprises to financial services), and reporting standards. With a stronger emphasis on the end goal of impact and carbon emissions reductions, Plan A provides a standardized platform where companies can measure, report, and embed impact into the DNA of their companies.

The success of Plan A co-founder and CEO Lubomila Jorganova has been impressive. So far, Plan A has an overall impact of client CO2e emissions reductions of roughly 60%. Plan A was one of the only start-ups to receive an invitation to COP26, where she spoke. She has also vigorously promotes greentech collaboration and networking through her Greentech Alliance, and she has won numerous leadership awards for tackling some of the core problems of ESG reporting as an entrepreneur.

Inspiring women like these are shaping the pushing the boundaries of possibility for climate tech. Their leadership serves as an important reminder of the value women have in this space.

Originally published at https://www.ericaeller.com on December 8, 2021.



Erica Eller

Freelance copywriter working in Climate Tech, ESG and Sustainability | GRI & GARP Sustainability and Climate Risk certified | https://ericaeller.com